Get Started With Your Collaborative Robot Project – The Right Way!
Source: Universal robots
Now, you know you need to invest in your first collaborative robot cell to solve your production issues (labor shortage, quality issues, long lead times, etc.). So what are the next steps you need to take to get started?
Cobots or collaborative robots offer a lot of flexibility, safety, and cost-effective results when deployed. That’s why it’s not a surprise that more and more companies are adopting them. On top of that, they have become affordable even for SMEs, not just large organizations.
However, even though collaborative robots can handle all kinds of different applications, they aren’t meant for all jobs. Certain tasks are simply better to automate than others, and if you are doing this the first time, you need to know how to implement automation properly.
Keep reading to learn all about the basic steps to successful automation and all the common pitfalls you’ll want to avoid along the way.
Do You Know What Cobots Can Do?
Cobots are designed to work together with humans. These robots can take care of repetitive tasks, including:
- Pick & place
- Quality testing
- Machine tending
- And so on.
This approach allows your employees to deal with more critical issues that require advanced problem-solving.
Cobots are similar to industrial robots but are designed to handle processes that are typically involved in SMEs. On top of that, they offer more versatility because they can be quickly repurposed and installed to perform different tasks. Their ease-of-programming makes them the perfect choice for companies without robotic expertise or experience.
In other words, even if you have a high mix of parts and small volumes, collaborative robots will be able to adapt and be redeployed. Until now, these machines have been most popular in manufacturing and logistics.
How to Choose the Right Application
In general, you can use cobots to automate manual processes done by your workers. However, you should avoid putting them in positions that require instant decisions, critical thinking, or human-like dexterity. Instead, look for processes that might cause injuries or are dangerous but could be handled by machines.
Automate Tasks That Cobots Can Handle as Well as Humans
Try to automate those processes where your workers are already productive. Cobots won’t necessarily improve the overall efficiency, but they can handle these tasks equally well and operate 24/7, giving you optimal productivity with minimal risk of errors occurring.
Consider Their Abilities
Cobots can generally move parts that are around 20 pounds and reach for things about 50 inches away. Understanding your cell layout and which parts will be handled is then important. Make sure that you can find solutions to handle your needs and set them up correctly.
Level of Connectivity
It’s essential to consider the connectivity of cobots with machines and how they will interact. In other words, will a cobot replace a simple human interaction like unloading parts? Will it have to work with other machines in a complex manner?
The more connectivity you need to other machines, the more difficult that process is to automate.
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Consider the Environment
Collaborative robots can usually work in all environments where humans can. However, just because they are more resilient, it doesn’t mean that they don’t need protection, just as people do. So consider protecting your robots if extreme conditions like high temperature, sparks, humidity, or anything else.
Have a Proven Robotic Project Management Process
Consider following the Lean Robotics methodology. Lean Robotics is a methodology to incorporate robots into your manufacturing business efficiently. It is based on the well-established principles of Lean Manufacturing and aims to make it quick and easy to get started with your first robotic cell.
Check The Four Principles of Lean Robotics here.
Get Your Team on Board With the Change
A lot of workers still see robots as a threat to their job security. They think that machines are going to replace them and that they’re going to lose their jobs. However, you need to have the workers on board if you want the whole process to run smoothly. Explain to them that cobots will help them focus on more crucial and less dangerous tasks.
They will be helping your workers by making their jobs easier. Collaborative robots work together with people – they don’t replace them. Instead, they refine the work and make it easier for people to do their jobs. Talk about the benefits, including lower risk of injuries, new positions, and how this change will make people less stressed.
Source: Universal robots
You need to get the whole team on the same page as they will have to learn how to work with these machines.
Find a Project Champion
More often than not, we see companies choosing one of their current employees to take control of this new automation project, the production manager or maintenance engineer.
The main problem is that this employee may already have many things on his plate. So he will most likely be taking care of “fire” on the production line instead of focusing on the automation project. And you know that the faster you get this robot in production, the better will your ROI be.
Our best advice is to dedicate a champion for this project that is 100% focused on this automation project. The project will then get going faster and smoother.
Another piece of advice for you is to choose someone with the enthusiasm and willingness to learn this new technology, more than the already experienced person without much interest. This is because collaborative robots can be quickly learned.
Set Your ROI Timeframe
It’s important to look at the financial aspect of your application. Cobots can instantly give you certain benefits, including:
- Lower energy costs
- Faster production
- Fewer errors
- Lower after-sales costs
List all the benefits that you will probably get from their cobots and think about how these benefits will evolve. Once you’ve evaluated the benefits, it will be easier to calculate when the application will become profitable. In addition, it will allow you to set your final costs and potentially add some other integrations.
Start Implementing Your Collaborative Robots
Once you’ve done all of the above, it’s time to get to the task at hand. However, there is still so much more to learn and consider to have a fully functional robot on your production line. So take the time to discuss with professionals to understand your goals, application and to design your collaborative robot cell.
At Olympus Controls, we specialize in robotic technologies and offer innovative machine automation solutions. We can help you develop a robust solution to expedite your automation project from concept to completion.
Contact us today to schedule a free consultation call for your next collaborative robot project. Also, discover how we can supercharge your efficiency and productivity with our solutions and engineering services.